Tools Of The Trade: WiFi access points

The first generation of wireless networking equipment was expensive, tricky to configure, slow, and not that reliable. But performance has improved and it is possible now to pick up basic equipment very cheaply.

The first generation of wireless networking equipment was expensive, tricky to configure, slow, and not that reliable. But performance has improved and it is possible now to pick up basic equipment very cheaply.

But for the best performance, it is worth paying a little more for a "g"-series set-up. The WiFi standard comes in two main versions in Europe: 802.11b, with a top speed of 11 megabytes per second, and 802.11g, which is capable of 54mbps. As long as you have a "g"-capable access point and card for your PC, the increase in network speeds should be quite dramatic.

There is a vast range of 802.11g-based hardware, with access points - the gadgets that link wireless-equipped PCs or handhelds to a network - selling for under £100.

Apple's Airport Express access point scores well for style. A small white box, it goes directly into a mains socket. Plug in an ethernet cable to the office network, or to a cable or DSL modem, and setting up a wireless network takes just a few minutes.

The Airport Express works with both Macs and PCs, and Apple's software makes setting everything up easy. The software also includes support for AirTunes. This allows the Airport Express unit to relay any music on a user's Mac or PC - as long as it is in Apple's iTunes software - and play it on a hifi.

AirTunes is a fun feature, but built-in support for printer sharing will be more useful in the office. The Airport Express can connect to a USB-equipped printer, and then any computer hooking up to the wireless network can print to it. The Airport Express is cheaper than a network card for many of the more expensive office printers.

Linksys' WAP54G wireless access point takes a slightly different approach. Linksys, owned by networking giant Cisco, provides a range of modular wired and wireless networking equipment. The routers, hubs and access points are designed to work together, and they can even be stacked into a compact tower.

The WAP54G should work with any office local-area network (LAN), as well as a cable modem or ethernet-based ADSL connection. Again, it was easy enough to set up: all its features can be controlled from a web browser, although Linksys does also supply (PC) set-up software. Configuration is perhaps a little more complicated than for the Airport Express, but the unit is designed with business networks in mind.

In use, both units offered noticeable speed improvements over 802.11b networks, and did not suffer from radio interference. Both were a little temperamental with some office network configurations, but this was easy enough to solve.

The Linksys unit has the edge for range, and will fit best into existing LANs. The Airport Express scores for its neat design and additional functions, and is the better choice for the home. But either would be a worthwhile upgrade to an existing wireless network, or a solid basis for a new one.

THE VERDICT

Apple Airport Express

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: size, design, features.

Cons: more expensive than alternatives.

Price £99.

Contact: www.apple.com/uk

Linksys WAP54G

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pros: price, configuration options.

Cons: no extra features.

Price: around £40 + VAT.

Contact: www.linksys.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot